From farm boy to bomber pilot

During World War II, bomber pilots called the easier missions “milk runs,” but did you know there were also ice cream missions?

That’s one of the side notes in “Pilot from the Prairie,” the memoirs of Edgar J. Allen. Allen, who now lives in Burien, Washington, flew 30 missions as a B-24 pilot.

The book recalls Allen’s journey as he evolves from a shy Kansas farm boy, who never owned anything more expensive than a bicycle, to a young man responsible for piloting a million dollar bomber in some of the worst combat of the war. Allen’s prose describes his transition from the farm to the military. There was the culture shock of enduring a physical and being away from home for the first time, as well as facing the great unknown of the future ahead.

If your father, grandfather or uncle was a pilot in World War II, you will want to read this book. In many ways, Allen is every man who answered the call of the colors.

The descriptions of life at the air base in England are sure to bring back memories for those who were there.

He manages to describe the missions in a way that is both dramatic and thoughtful. In one chapter, for example, Allen describes a time when his aircraft was in a different position in formation. The aircraft that was where Allen’s plane normally flew was destroyed.

The battle scenes are especially vivid and thought provoking. His descriptions of flying into flak and flying in a darkened cockpit over blacked out terrain will raise the hair on the back of your neck.

There are some more lighthearted moments, such as when the young Allen tried to make sense of some of the orders they were given, such as taking a load of ingredients for ice cream aloft in order to freeze it. For someone raised during the Depression, it seemed a little silly to use all that fuel just to make ice cream. “Being too frugal for that, I spent the time practicing setting up the autopilot,” Allen recalls.

The book is paperback, has many pictures and a detailed appendix that covers the 30 missions Allen flew. There’s also a section on the mission briefings.

The book is 117 pages and can be ordered directly from Allen for $13.95 plus $1.81 for shipping and handling.

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